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This month we are focusing on heart health – with Valentine’s day falling in this month too this has its own heart connotations, a different angle to us as nutritionists!

The British Heart Foundation will be reminding us all this month of the importance of looking after our hearts and diet plays a large part in that.

Cardiovascular disease to give it it’s proper name – ‘cardio’ meaning heart and ‘vascular’ -blood vessels, covers every part of heart disease from the heart itself, the arteries to the brain and kidney and the peripheral vascular system.

There are four key parts to heart health – circulation, blood lipids(fats which include cholesterol) and blood vessel health (which includes blood pressure).

Atherosclerosis is the major precursor of cardiovascular disease. It actually begins when we are quite young but we usually have no symptoms at this stage. It is a mechanism used to ‘patch up’ damaged blood vessels, but if the underlying source of damage or inflammation is not addressed it leads to thickening of the arteries.

What happens:- Low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) will gather at damaged sites on the artery walls and if this cholesterol becomes oxidised, this leads to damage which triggers an immune response.  These damaged sites build up plaques which eventually lead to narrowing of the arteries which means the blood passing through has a narrower passage and this leads to increased blood pressure.

If the damaged plaques break off from the artery wall, then enter the blood stream and travel to other parts of the body they may block a blood vessel, if this happens in the brain this causes a stroke. 

Key areas to consider that can lead to heart disease include:-

Inflammation atherosclerosis is initiated by inflammatory processes in the cells of the vessel wall

Oxidative Stress damage caused by oxidised LDL cholesterol triggers the inflammatory cascade

Insulin resistance

Obesity is a major contributor to CVD

Homocysteine – an elevated level is a strong risk factor for CVD.

Physical Activity is needed on a regular basis to stimulate vasodilation (when blood vessels dilate), blood flow and to sustain lean muscle

Key areas we can look at to look after our cardiovascular system

Reduce oxidative stress by adding in to our diet plenty of antioxidants such as vitamin C rich foods (berries, kiwi, broccoli), Vitamin E found in avocado, sunflower seeds, almonds plus other potent antioxidants such as lycopene(tomato) and bilberry. 

Anti inflammatory action and balancing lipid(fats)  by eating Omega 3 fats (oily fish such as salmon, mackeral, sardines or vegan sources from algae, flaxseed) – decrease triglycerides and all cardiovascular event.

Supplementing your diet with Vitamin C, Fish oil, Plant sterols, probiotics, magnesium, red yeast rice (provided we have checked there are no contraindications)

If high cholesterol is an issue, plant sterols can regulate cholesterol and probiotics can lower LDL cholesterol. Another option is Red Yeast Rice  which can also regulate cholesterol.

The mineral Magnesium plays a part in over 300 functions in the body and as such is key to heart health. It is often referred to as nature’s natural tranquilizer, so can lower blood pressure.

Highlighted heart health options in store include:-

BioCare BioPlantarum plus sterols A specialised blend of live bacteria with plant sterols to support healthy cholesterol levels, provides the optimum amount of plant sterols to support healthy cholesterol levels, along with 10 billion of the scientifically researched Lactobacillus plantarum live bacteria.

Terranova Red Yeast Rice Complex contains the first red yeast rice ingredient that contains absolutely no monacolin K. Monacolin K is an active compound, naturally found in red yeast rice and is structurally identical to prescription statin medication. It has been found to significantly increase the activity of creatine phosphokinase (CPK). Excessive CPK may be associated with a number of side effects, including muscle pain/weakness, fatigue, kidney and liver toxicity.

Research has shown that the major compounds of Ankascin 568-R®, monascin and ankaflavin, have no effect on the activities of CPK, yet have the same beneficial effects on cholesterol and triglycerides. Due to a special fermentation process, Ankascin 568-R® provides high levels of these active compounds, monascin & ankaflavin, without any monacolin K. Two capsules provide a scientifically-proven therapeutic dosage of Ankascin 568-R® (110mg).

With more than 10 years of clinical research resulting in 120 scientific publications, Ankascin 568-R® has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure, improve insulin resistance and provide protective support against degenerative diseases. One clinical study on the effects of Ankascin 568-R®,showed that after 4 weeks of administration, serum cholesterol was significantly reduced by 11.9%. LDL cholesterol was reduced by 19%, with an even better reduction (20.4%) evident after 8 weeks of use.


Sources – BioCare, Terra Nova